Beauty of Compassion Underscores Ugliness of Politicians
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 6, 2014
Summary: Blue and green camp supporters caught up in partisan political struggles
are competing to demonize each other. Society is permeated with
negativism. People are gradually losing confidence in the nation's
future. A major gas explosion in Kaohsiung has yet again highlighted the
government's slapdash public safety measures, the politicians' evasion
of responsibility, and the media's biased reporting. Fortunately we are
also witnessing the humane side of Taiwan society. This has not vanished
as a result of political battles and social divisions. The "big bang"
occurred less than a week ago. Since then people from all walks of life
have donated nearly 10 billion NT to disaster relief. Large numbers of
volunteers and large quantities of relief materiel have already reached
the disaster site. Every corner of society continues to offer prayers
and condolences to Kaohsiung.
Full Text Below:
Blue and green camp supporters caught up in partisan political struggles are competing to demonize each other. Society is permeated with negativism. People are gradually losing confidence in the nation's future. A major gas explosion in Kaohsiung has yet again highlighted the government's slapdash public safety measures, the politicians' evasion of responsibility, and the media's biased reporting. Fortunately we are also witnessing the humane side of Taiwan society. This has not vanished as a result of political battles and social divisions. The "big bang" occurred less than a week ago. Since then people from all walks of life have donated nearly 10 billion NT to disaster relief. Large numbers of volunteers and large quantities of relief materiel have already reached the disaster site. Every corner of society continues to offer prayers and condolences to Kaohsiung.
We are pleased to see senior members of the ruling and opposition parties dedicate themselves to disaster relief. They have not reenacted past dramas when they "sprinkled salt in the wound." That said, over the past few day a few politicians and pundits have descended to mud-slinging. One can only shake one's head at their contemptible behavior.
The exact cause of the disaster has yet to be determined. But some facts are simple and clear. For example, between the discovery of the underground pipeline leak and the explosion, a "missing three hours" demands explanation. Government inaction eventually led to disaster. This much is abundantly clear. Yet no one in the Kaohsiung City Government has stepped forward to assume any responsibility. All they have done is pass buck and shirk responsibility. Worse yet, instead of expressing grief and concern for the victims, some politicians are seizing the opportunity to demagogue the issue for blue or green political advantage. They are saying that the disaster was the result of past "favor the north, neglect the south" attitudes. Some media organizations zeroed in on the Second Lady's high heeled shoes, or how Sean Lien donated "only" 100,000 NT. Large numbers of netizens have engaged in name calling, as if everything must be a matter of blue vs. green. They just weren't happy if they couldn't link the disaster to the election.
To tell the truth, nobody wants a disaster like this to happen. The cause of the disaster may be difficult to determine. The gas explosion in Kaohsiung was the result of a long string of oversights and misjudgements. Those who bear responsibility must not be allowed to escape blame. That includes those responsible for the patch that fell off and allowed liquefied propene to leak out. That includes CGTD on the delivery end, and LCY Chemical on the receiving end. Abnormalities have been found. Yet transmissions are going on. They have not informed government authorities. Even now, the two companies are still shirking responsibility.
It is still unclear why the Kaohsiung City Government rashly assumed it was merely a natural gas leak. They should have sprayed foam. Instead they hurriedly sprayed water. As a result, the liquified propene, which is lighter than water, made its way underground. It combined with methane gas and ultimately led to unmanageable consequences. During those "missing three hours" the government could have identified the real cause, and sealed off the area to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Instead it did nothing. Since then, it has actually attempted to blame the Ministry of Economic Affairs. This sort of logic is truly amazing.
Suppose this incident had occurred in Taipei, or even New Taipei City? Would green camp politicians and pundits be blaming the Ministry of Economic Affairs? Underground pipeline management has always been the responsibility of municipal governments. Local governments, not the Ministry of Economic Affairs, are responsible for pipeline excavations and approvals. Some of the pipeline was allegedly 30 years old. If so, which party was in power during most of those 30 years? During the years in which it was in charge of the underground pipeline, just what did it do? Even if one avoids this line of thinking, what about the Kaohsiung City EPA and Kaohsiung City Fire Department crisis management for liquefied propene leaks? Were they sufficiently professional and up to snuff? Could this tragedy have been averted beforehand?
Some persist in blaming "favor the north, neglect the south" attitudes. This is lower than low. Greater Kaohsiung has an international deep-water port. The central government has invested vast resources in the city. Over the past 20 years, central government grants have been abundant and generous. Green camp leaders are perfectly aware of this. Complaints about the surrounding agricultural counties are one thing. But Kaohsiung probably has the least justification for complaint of all.
Major disasters often reveal peoples' true faces. The 9/21 great earthquake and the Kaohsiung gas explosion have both revealed the underlying decency of the public on Taiwan, and their love for their fellow man. Kaohsiung disaster relief donations and support from all sectors has yet to let up, Major League baseball player Chen Wei-yin even inquired about the fate of his hometown during a winning game. This is part of what makes Taiwan beautiful.
Unfortunately, the true faces revealed by major disasters are sometimes ugly ones. Those who should have borne responsibility, devote all their political smarts into shirking responsibility, prevaricating, or turning the spotlight on others in order to whitewash their own culpability. Most insufferable of all, some persist in linking the tragedy to blue vs. green partisan politics for the sake of the upcoming election campaign. Other peoples' pain is turned into their political capital. Over the past two days this practice has escalated. Alas, this drama has been replayed so many times, many people have seen through it and are weary of it. .
Keep your eyes open. Let go of blue vs. green partisan politics. Taiwan still has much that is beautiful, waiting to be discovered. When confronting one's failings, have the courage to own up to them. One will not necessarily be booed. One may in fact be affirmed.